It’s once again time to do something in celebration of Library Week! Last year on Artdog Adventures, I posted a different library-related quote each day. The brilliant Simini Blocker illustrated all of them. Of course, The Weird Blog didn’t exist yet, this time last year.
This year, I’m no less grateful and delighted that we have libraries in our lives. I have a lot less time for blogging. But I owe it to libraries and their impact on my life to do something in celebration of Library Week!
Libraries are centers of knowledge
Of course, for any book lover, libraries are life and breath. They also have been a feature of civilization for about as long as civilizations have existed. You might consider libraries as one of the characteristics that marks a given cultural flowering as a “civilization.” Unfortunately, in most civilizations, libraries weren’t open to the general public.
Granted, the general public couldn’t read for most of human history. Also, the concept of a public library hadn’t occurred to anyone. One thing we citizens of the USA can be proud of is that free public libraries appear to be an American invention.
Libraries function as repositories of information, accumulated wisdom and insight. Sometimes poppycock mixes in there, too. But that’s often hard to discern till much later. In every age, they’re centers of knowledge. And you know what they say about knowledge.
Years ago, a wise person told me that reading material in the home often tells us who’ll be a greater success. A good-sized collection of books (in their field or more general) signals a more agile mind.
More than books alone
From the very beginning, libraries have always been more than just collections of books. Books are useless unless someone reads, thinks about and discusses them. For this reason, the ancient Library of Pergamum had four rooms: three for storing books (scrolls at that time), and one for meetings, conferences, and banquets.
In Colonial North America, Benjamin Franklin and a community of friends created the first “social library.” They each chipped in 40 shillings to buy a collection of books that all could use. Groups of scholars or a church might share other libraries of the time.
Three different sites claim bragging rights as the “first” public library. But whichever was first, what we’d recognize as proto-modern, free public libraries arose in the early 1840s, in the eastern United States, in tandem with public schools. Both schools and libraries support the idea that only an educated citizenry can govern a democracy well.
In Celebration of Library Week
There’s so much to love about libraries! They actually may make us better people.
A 2014 Pew Research poll discovered that 2/3 of Americans say they have “high or medium engagement” with their local public libraries. Better still, library patrons are more involved in their communities. They’re also more likely to be engaged with friends and neighbors, and generally be more capable tech users.
Contemporary libraries provide a resource center for all kinds of information, materials, and computer/Internet access. They offer a haven of resources for lower-income information-seekers and those in need of services only available online. And they often serve as a port in the storm for some of our our homeless population.
In celebration of Library Week, I could have gone in many directions with this blog post. But I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of public library history. What would we do without our libraries? If you’re so inclined, please share your favorite aspects or experiences with libraries in the comments below.
Many thanks to Shellie’s Quote Emporium on tumblr, for the quote from Mari Barnes; to ebook friendly for the Dr. Who quote. Many thanks to MEME for the Henry Ward Beecher quote, and again to ebook friendly for this quote from J. K. Rowling.